The second print edition of The Estuary Alternative has been sent to the printer

The Estuary Alternative is the (slightly) better behaved sister project of the Stirrer and will be out as a paper by early March. Unlike the Stirrer which does what it say on the tin, The Estuary Alternative is about promoting grassroots, community based projects that have the potential to start building a new world in the decaying shell of the dydsfunctional one we currently endure…

We’ve produced another paper because there are two very big days coming up in March where we want to be getting the message of what The Estuary Alternative is about across to as many people as possible. Really, it’s more of a manifesto than a paper with the key message being the need to start building a new world in the decaying shell of the dysfunctional, unjust, unsustainable and increasingly dystopian one we currently have to endure. A project that becomes increasingly urgent by the day. Print copies of the paper will be available at the events listed below and if there are any left afterwards, they’ll be available from venues like The Railway in Clifftown Road, Southend-on-Sea. As we can only afford a limited print run, you can download a PDF of the paper from here: We’ll also be publishing some of the articles from the paper as posts on The Estuary Alternative blog over the next few days…



Putting the ‘con’ into consultation

From the Save Southend NHS Facebook page:

Yesterday, a member of our #SaveSouthendNHS team conducted an audit of the Mid and South Essex STP Facebook page, following their claims to Councillors at the Joint Health Overview Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday 20th February that there had been significant engagement and public reach attained by their consultation. Much like all of the other information issued by the STP, we conclude that yet again, it is nothing more than utter #spin. This is a completely meaningless consultation and one which needs to be halted with immediate effect. How can huge decisions be made on relocating essential hospital specialities when only 0.75 of the population are even aware that the STP is happening? This affects 1.5 million people and their efforts at consultation are NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Most of their engagement has likely come from our campaign followers and to date, #SaveSouthendNHS have handed out over 40,000 leaflets despite us not having a full time comms team or a cash budget.

Please share our posts to increase our campaign’s reach on social media and follow us on Twitter: @NHSunited

Email your opinion to the STP NOW:

Making some points on the housing crisis

Getting the banners out at the start of the action at Potters Field next to City Hall

On Saturday 24th February, we joined activists from Class War and the Revolutionary Communist Group in an action to highlight the dire consequences of the housing crisis in London. Regular readers of this blog out in Essex may ask why we went on an action in London when we have more than enough issues relating to housing out here along the estuary. Simply, it’s because what happens in London with housing has a direct impact on the situation out here in southern Essex: A house in Vange owned by…Local Space Stratford

What exacerbates the housing crisis in London is the construction of block after block of high specification luxury apartment blocks which are all too often left empty to be just brought and sold as investment vehicles by the global super rich. Building homes for the ordinary Londoners whose work keeps the capital functioning is way down on the priority list to kowtowing to the wealthy elite. Sure, there have been promises by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan to address the problem and build more ‘affordable’ homes but the pitiful results do not in any way match the rhetoric.

We have the obscenity of workers on low wages with precarious employment conditions being forced to sleep rough. Go to the Stratford Centre (next to its more prestigious neighbour at Westfield) on any evening and you’ll see plenty of rough sleepers trying to get some kip in the relative warmth before undertaking a day’s work. These people are the lucky ones in that they have managed to find some kind of shelter. Many just have to survive as best they can on the freezing streets of London, constantly in fear of assault from those who have swallowed the poison from the right wing media about the ‘undeserving’ poor. One of the speakers at the start of the action pointed out that with the bitterly cold weather to come over the next week or so, we could be witnessing a ‘slow Grenfell’ with scores of rough sleepers freezing to death on the streets of the capital.

The protest started at the privately owned Potters Field next to the Kuwaiti owned City Hall which is where the Greater London Authority (GLA) is based. This was to draw attention to a) the lamentable record of the GLA in providing genuinely affordable housing and b) to how many buildings and what seem to be, but aren’t, public spaces that are owned by the super rich. After a few rousing speeches and a brief stop right outside a windswept City Hall, we proceeded through a luxury housing development down to Tooley Street. We then took the road until London Bridge station before turning a sharp left and making our way to Qatari owned Shard where there was a protest earlier in the month: They couldn’t stop the protest at The Shard There were more speeches highlighting the obscenity of empty luxury apartments at the top of The Shard while the homeless freeze in the surrounding streets. The action was finished off with a swift advance to the front of the News Corp building to express our disgust at the demonising of the poor carried out by Murdoch’s papers.

Okay, the numbers who turned out weren’t what we were hoping for. That meant that certain things that were planned couldn’t happen. It was a case of thinking on our feet to deploy what numbers we had in the most effective way possible to get the points about the housing crisis across in the most direct and clearest way possible to the members of the media who turned up to cover the event. The speeches and the interviews left the media and the watching public in no doubt as to what we think of the super rich poncing off the capital while a growing number of Londoners struggle to get a roof over their heads. As for the disparity between the numbers who shared the posters and memes about the protest on social media and those who actually turned up, that’s something we’ll be writing about on our sister blog, On Uncertain Ground sometime later this week.

Security at the front of the News Corp building experiencing a moment of frisson as we approached the entrance

One pile of shite (The Shard) framed by another pile of Shite (the News Corp building) – an axis of evil if ever there was one

Pressure gets results:)

Earlier on this week in the aftermath of the community clean up on the ¾ estate in Vange, we put up a series of posts based on what we experienced and saw. One of those posts was this one berating Basildon Council over their lack of inaction over a ‘temporary’ fence and the accumulation of rubbish behind it: Action?

Well, lo and behold, as you can clearly see from the image above, the rocky, dodgy ‘temporary’ fence and the rubbish behind it has been cleared! We don’t know what buttons were pressed at Basildon Council to get this issue sorted but it has to be said that pressure from the Vange Hill Community Group (VHCG), facilitated by Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) with some back up from us here at the Stirrer undoubtedly played a significant part. At this point, we’d like to thank all of those involved, particularly the staff on the ground who physically removed the fence and the accumulation of trash behind it – your efforts are greatly appreciated.

Okay, in the grand scheme of things, getting a fence and the rubbish removed is a small victory. It also has to be pointed out that VHCG facilitated by BASHA shouldn’t have to be busting a gut to get Basildon Council to do what should be a routine part of their job. However, a victory is a victory and collectively, we’re taking this one!

There’s a long way to go on the ¾ estate but things are starting to look up and that’s in no small part down to the effort put in by VHCG. All of this goes to show that if a community group shows the determination to stick at it, they can get results and start to turn things around in their neighbourhood. People power and putting on the pressure gets results. If VHCG and their allies stick at it, for the ¾ estate it can only be onwards and upwards…

Lastly, on our sister blog, The Estuary Alternative, here are some thoughts on what could be done with the newly cleared space: Could there be a pocket community garden here?

We’ve been going for a year…

Today is the first anniversary of this blog and it’s sister project, On Uncertain Ground. Our predecessor was the South Essex Heckler which had been going in various forms since 2011. At the start of last year, we thought the Heckler had lost its focus and was trying to be all things to all people. It was veering from fairly punchy posts focusing on local and some national issues, attempts at more theoretical pieces through to what some would see as more ‘fluffy’ promotions of community focused projects.

Having all of this under one roof became too much so we binned the Heckler in early February last year and after a short experiment with localised blogs covering Thurrock and Basildon respectively, the South Essex Stirrer was launched and this is where we are. Our other sister blog, The Estuary Alternative which as you may guess from the title, promotes positive alternatives in the form of grassroots projects that make a difference in the here and now, was launched in the aftermath of the Southend Radical Fair which took place in early May last year.

How are we doing? Reader numbers on the Stirrer are up to what they were on the Heckler before it was scrapped so we’re making pretty good progress here. With On Uncertain Ground which is for the longer, more theoretical pieces, it only gets updated every couple of weeks so when a new post goes up, the hits come in but then tail off until the next update. As for The Estuary Alternative, it’s not taken off in the way we wanted. That’s down to a number of factors, one of which was not having the time to seriously push the project last year. We’ve reviewed the situation, come up with a few new ideas which we’ll be implementing so hopefully it’ll be onwards and upwards for The Estuary Alternative this year.

The Stirrer, On Uncertain Ground and The Estuary Alternative all come under the umbrella of South Essex Radical Media which has a presence on Facebook. This is where we announce the updates for all of our blogs as well as briefly commenting on issues and sharing events and items of interest from other like minded pages. South Essex Radical Media also has a presence on Twitter as well.

What we want to do with all of our blogs is make them more open and collaborative. We do not want to be writing all of the posts for the blogs and all of the copy for any papers we bring out. With the Stirrer, we’re making reasonable progress in sourcing material from external sources but we would warmly welcome more! With On Uncertain Ground, as it’s intended to be a bit more theoretical in its outlook, we’re more than happy to accept guest posts from people who are broadly in agreement with our politics. As for the Estuary Alternative, the long term aim is to hand that over to other grassroots activists in the south of Essex so we need you to start contributing to it sooner rather than later!

All of the above blogs and the Facebook page are linked to in the side bar on the right hand side.

That wasn’t a consultation…

From the Save Southend NHS Facebook page:

Thank you to the very knowledgeable and well respected member of our local community, Sherry Fuller, who is highly experienced in pubic consultations. Here are her thoughts after attending the #SAVS STP discussion event on Monday.

Thought about today’s consultation event at SAVS re STP is that it wasn’t a consultation event.

At best, it was a communication event. Two communication leads went through some slides that gave broad information about some of the elements of the STP project. There was a short amount of time afterwards for a few questions from the floor. These questions were recorded as ‘feedback’ from the event.

This isn’t consultation.

The ideal: participants given materials pertinent to the consultation ahead of the event to allow time to peruse and formulate questions. The brochure we were given today – which was barely referenced to during the event – wasn’t a clear consultation document, it was what I would consider a publicity brochure.

At the event itself, I would expect facilitated round table conversations, about clear and complete proposals, giving the opportunity for everyone present to have a say. Facilitators should make efforts to accurately record comments, concerns, questions and ideas.

What I saw today was a good attempt by SAVS to summarise themes arising in questions from a few participants and SAVS taking notes. I didn’t notice much, if any, recording from the communication leads themselves.

As a member of the public what I want from a consultation event or activity is clarity about:

– What changes are proposed
– What options are up for consideration and how those options were arrived at (there was some of this today)
– What is and isn’t included within the scope of this consultation (this was the biggest failure point – people kept asking questions that we were told weren’t applicable to this part of the project.)
– What my opportunity is to influence the proposals and how I can do this.

There wasn’t time today for participants to peruse proposals, which were not clear anyway – most of the communication was around five key principles. Principles don’t tell me enough about what’s proposed to be changed) – and we therefore couldn’t respond in a meaningful way. It wasn’t at all clear what was and wasn’t in scope.

Furthermore the meeting started half hour late cutting short discussion time.

When people asked for detail – they were referred to the official consultation document which I understand can be found on line.

I reinforced what was said by others – to allow time for ‘intelligent consideration ‘(which includes time for consultees to prepare a response) the deadline of 9 March should be extended.

However, the event leads felt that sufficient consultation has been carried out and that the deadline is unlikely to move.

If other ‘consultation events’ have been of the same format as today’s, then I would argue that this is more communications and PR than it is consultation. Giving a presentation and then fielding a few questions isn’t consultation.’

Dispatch from Brooke House

Water coming from a blocked drain making the stairs dangerous to use

Drains in the basement area not being cleared leading to flooding when it rains

This comment made by one of the residents on the Brooke House Residents Basildon Facebook page ( eloquently sums up the feelings of frustration and despair at the conditions in the public areas of Brooke House: It’s not good enough to be told it takes time. Not acceptable. I’ve complained about the flooding for 2 YEARS! I’ve also slipped twice coming out the lift, contacted the council asked if plastic flooring could be put down like they have in swimming pools until the flooding issue is sorted. Didn’t want to know. Darren Maybin doesn’t even reply to my emails any more, that’s so unprofessional and shows exactly what he thinks of our complaints. So now I’m going to the Echo and as a registered disabled person I will be quoting the Disability Act for the safety. I’m fed up now. I’m sick of being fobbed off. The emergency exits in this place are DANGEROUS. So I hope the council will respond in a quicker time when the echo run my piece and I’m telling them everything About this shit hole. Anyone else wanna join me feel free to. Babies,kids, disabled, elderly all live here and it’s an unsafe crap hole.

We’re aware the the local councillor, Andrew Buxton, is putting as much pressure as he can on the relevant officers at Basildon Council to get on top of the multiple issues at Brooke House. The problem Cllr. Buxton faces is having to deal with entrenched attitudes among too many officers at Basildon Council who regard social housing tenants as a nuisance. Which does lead us to ask the question as to who really holds the power to get things done at the council – the councillors or the permanent officers?

There are elements at Basildon Council who feel that social housing tenants have no right to be living in a convenient town centre location and should be moved out to estates on the periphery so they can flog Brooke House off to a developer and trouser the cash. The deterioration of the public areas of the block and the misery of living with the increasing risk that poses is making more and more of the residents think that the only solution is to apply for a transfer and hope they’re offered somewhere better to live. This is an intentional policy of managed decline. We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again – what’s happening at Brooke House is to all intents and purposes a deliberate process of social cleansing in the name of ‘regeneration’.